Monroe County is ground zero for experiencing the impacts of global climate change and sea level rise. Along the chain of islands that barely juts above the sea, many streets already are flooding numerous times throughout the year from extreme fall and spring tides.
Habitat for wildlife that once was high and dry continues to be encroached with seawater. Rising seas already have begun to affect some roads and other County infrastructure, as well as some homes and businesses – and will continue to do so into the future.
In 2012, the Board of County Commissioners approved a new position for a sustainability manager, whose job is to address sustainability and climate change issues, manage a comprehensive canal restoration project to improve the County's water quality and to monitor the solid waste and recycling program to help the Keys become greener and thus more sustainable.
Sustainability Website: Greenkeys.info
The department launched a sustainability website in 2015: www.GreenKeys.info.
Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact
Over the past seven years, Monroe County has taken a leading role in the regional effort to combat climate change and adapt to rising seas. We continued our coordination and activities with the four-county Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact.
A revised Regional Climate Action Plan was issued in November 2017 and presented at the 2017 Climate Summit held in December in Fort Lauderdale. For the County, planning for climate change and sea level rise must be integrated into all of our decision-making for a cohesive response.
GreenKeys Sustainability Action Plan
In 2017, we began the Year 1 projects listed in the Monroe County GreenKeys Sustainability Action Plan, which is available to review at the website: www.GreenKeys.info. The larger projects include:
- Mobile LiDAR data elevation project: We are improving the elevation data on the County’s roads and facilities. Before the County can more accurately project the effects of sea level rise on the County’s roads, the County must first have accurate data on the exact elevation of all 300 miles of County roads.
- County-wide roads analysis: This project that identifies near-term roads subject to inundation risk, including nuisance flooding, will be solicited in early 2018. The elevation data from the mobile LiDAR work will be used in the engineering analysis phase of this project.
The Sustainability Action Plan includes a five-year work plan.
Heavy Sargassum Year in the Florida Keys
This summer, you may have noticed tons of brown organic material washed up on beaches and decaying all over the Atlantic side of the Florida Keys. But what is it, really? And why is it appearing on our beaches? It’s called sargassum, and it is brown algae, or seaweed, that floats in massive mats out on the open ocean. For more information about this issue: click Sargassum Information
Canal Restoration Program
In 2014, Monroe County embarked on a Canal Restoration Program after a study showed that 311 of the 502 canals throughout the island chain did not meet the State’s minimum water quality criteria – and are a source of nutrients and other contaminants to near shore waters.
The County has funded $7 million for 8 demonstration projects that used different methods for canal restoration. The purpose was to verify the applicability, feasibility, effectiveness and costs of the different methods. State and federal grants have contributed more than $1 million to this program.
Results from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant – which provided funding to address data gaps and changes to the State’s DEP dissolved oxygen methodology and criteria in the canal masterplan – showed a reduction in the number of “Poor” classified canals throughout the Keys. Based on this new information, the County is re-ranking and prioritizing canals for potential restoration projects.
In 2018, the Board of County Commissioners adopted the PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) Program that provides alternative options for funding of projects that increase energy effectiveness. Homeowners can receive funds, based on specific parameters, and pay back the funds through their property taxes.
Climate Modeling Research
The County continues with climate modeling research to better characterize damage assessments from sea level rise.
Road Elevation Demonstration Projects
In 2017, we budgeted for the design of two road elevation demonstration communities, one in the upper Keys and one in the Lower Keys. Progress was slightly delayed due to Hurricane Irma. Design will be completed in 2018 and construction will be completed in 2019.